Home Health News Elitism On A Food Stamp Budget?

Elitism On A Food Stamp Budget?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I am genuinely confused with what to think about this… so I figured I’d bring it to y’all and see what conversation is sparked from it.

From Salon:

In the John Waters-esque sector of northwest Baltimore — equal parts kitschy, sketchy, artsy and weird — Gerry Mak and Sarah Magida sauntered through a small ethnic market stocked with Japanese eggplant, mint chutney and fresh turmeric. After gathering ingredients for that evening’s dinner, they walked to the cash register and awaited their moments of truth.

“I have $80 bucks left!” Magida said. “I’m so happy!”

“I have $12,” Mak said with a frown.

The two friends weren’t tabulating the cash in their wallets but what remained of the monthly allotment on their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit cards, the official new term for what are still known colloquially as food stamps.

Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding — and her usual gigs — to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she’s used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.

“I’m eating better than I ever have before,” she told me. “Even with food stamps, it’s not like I’m living large, but it helps.”

Mak, 31, grew up in Westchester, graduated from the University of Chicago and toiled in publishing in New York during his 20s before moving to Baltimore last year with a meager part-time blogging job and prospects for little else. About half of his friends in Baltimore have been getting food stamps since the economy toppled, so he decided to give it a try; to his delight, he qualified for $200 a month.

“I’m sort of a foodie, and I’m not going to do the ‘living off ramen’ thing,” he said, fondly remembering a recent meal he’d prepared of roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes. “I used to think that you could only get processed food and government cheese on food stamps, but it’s great that you can get anything.”

[…]

And in cities that are magnets for 20- and 30-something creatives and young professionals, the kinds of food markets that specialize in delectables like artisanal bread, heirloom tomatoes and grass-fed beef have seen significant upticks in food stamp payments among their typical shoppers. At the Wedge, a market in the stylish Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis; at New Seasons Market, a series of nine specialty stores in and around Portland, Ore.; and at Rainbow Grocery, a stalwart for food lovers in San Francisco’s Mission District, food stamp purchases have doubled in the past year.

“The use has gone way up in the last six months,” said Eric Wilcox, a cashier who has worked at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco for 10 years. “We’re seeing a lot more young people in their 20s purchasing organic food with food stamp cards. I wouldn’t say it’s limited to hipster people, but I’m certainly surprised to see them with cards.”

Young urbanites with a taste for ciabatta may legitimately be among the new poor, but their participation in the program is far from universally accepted. A New York Times story in late November about the program’s explosive growth generated a storm of comments online, with many readers lobbing familiar accusations of laziness and irresponsibility.

But there seems to be a special strain of ire reserved for those like the self-described “30-something, unemployed, ex-fashionista, EBT armed, post-hipster, downtown mom” from New York who, in January, drew nearly 500 comments on the Web site Urbanbaby.com, many seething with fury at her for trying to maintain the trappings of a materialistic, cosmopolitan life while using an Electronic Benefit Transfer card — food stamps — to feed her family. (Her blog is now password-protected.)

“You’re hosting dinner parties and buying cases of wine — on taxpayers’ money!” one person wrote. “Your attitude is so objectionable that you’re like a trainwreck; it’s hard to look away.” (One cannot, in fact, buy wine with food stamps, though dinner party ingredients are fair game.)

And on the blog Stuff Unemployed People Like, along with “not showering regularly” and “sleeping in while your significant other goes to work,” a post last year touted “buying Perrier with food stamps” and sarcastically claimed that “the fancier the food, the more glee there is in knowing the government has once again helped in enabling a lavish lifestyle.” Of the reader responses that poured in, many were food stamp users who defended their shopping choices (including, yes, Perrier) while others attacked them.

“While one person works their butt off,” one wrote, “another is just waiting in line so they can recieve [sic] their ‘luxury’ food stamps and recieve [sic] basically whatever they want.”

But among young food stamp recipients I spoke with, there’s less glee than traces of embarrassment about their situations; few want to be seen handing over applications at the human resource office, and they can be sheepish about presenting their snap cards in a checkout line.

Josh Ankerberg, a 26-year-old who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., started getting food stamps a year ago as an AmeriCorps volunteer, a group that has long had special dispensation to qualify for them, and he has continued using them while he job hunts. He uses his $200 in monthly benefits at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and a local farmer’s market to maintain his self-described healthy flexitarian diet, and notes that two of his roommates — a graduate student in poetry and an underemployed cook, both in their 20s — also started getting food stamps in the past two months, as have other friends and acquaintances.

Still, Ankerberg said, “There’s a sort of uneasiness about it. A few friends that are artists in Williamsburg are like, ‘Don’t say we’re on food stamps too loudly. Just keep it between you and me.'”

At the same time, there seems to be little moral quandary about collecting a benefit traditionally thought of as intended for the downtrodden. In a nondiscriminating recession that laid waste almost across the board, the feeling is that anyone who meets the near-poverty level requirements for collecting food stamps shouldn’t feel guilty about doing so.

Controversy about how they use food stamps marks an interesting shift from the classic critique that the program subsidizes diets laden with soda pop and junk food.
But from that perspective, food stamp-using foodies might be applauded for demonstrating that one can, indeed, eat healthy and make delicious home-cooked meals on a tight budget.

And while they might be questioned for viewing premium ingredients as a necessity, it could also be argued that they’re eating the best and most conscious way they know how. They are often cooking at home. They are using fresh ingredients. This is, after all, a generation steeped in Michael Pollan books, bountiful farmer’s markets and a fetish for all things sustainable and handcrafted. Is it wrong to believe there should be a local, free-range chicken in every Le Creuset pot?

At Magida’s brick row house in Baltimore, she and Mak minced garlic while observing that one of the upsides of unemployment was having plenty of time to cook elaborate meals, and that among their friends, they had let go of any bad feelings about how their food was procured.

“It’s not a thing people feel ashamed of, at least not around here,” said Mak. “It feels like a necessity right now.”

Savory aromas wafted through the kitchen as a table was set with a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice, all of it courtesy of government assistance.

“At first, I thought, ‘Why should I be on food stamps?'” said Magida, digging into her dinner. “Here I am, this educated person who went to art school, and there are a lot of people who need them more. But then I realized, I need them, too.” [source]

I may not be on food stamps, but I’ve certainly shared comments from readers who’ve shared how they eat very well on a razor thin budget. On this blog, that’s something to be applauded.

In fact, the paragraph about what food stamps are usually blamed for – subsidizing horrific eating lifestyles – is kind of a big deal. We all went to war over whether or not food stamps should be banned from purchasing soft drinks. I wrote extensively about how the poor in America use their food stamps to eat “like the rest of America,” and “want to enjoy the same foods as the rest of America,” even if “the rest of America” has more money… or if “the rest of America” is eating poorly. We, here at BGG2WL, know how little access to proper nutrition the poor really have. Should we really chide people for being able to truly make use of their benefits in ways we support and praise?

I’ll also be honest – the response to people like this (the comments are slightly overwhelming) also make me wonder why people apply the “luxury” title to things like “fruits and vegetables.” Having the time to cook is a “luxury.” Do we never question why these things are so “luxurious” as opposed to common place? We complain about and assume food stamp recipients are the dredges of society, all fat and miserable (and Black welfare queens) who are eating up all the cheetos… but we’re angry as hell – collectively – when they prioritize health and wellness (and preservation of both) above all else? When they use the little bit of money they’ve got wisely? (Or are they?) Would we feel better about paying into a system that takes care of others (and even, some day, ourselves?) if and only if they still appeared to be doing worse than we are?

Is that element of superiority required here? Do we need to feel superior to food stamp recipients?

I know that’s a lot of questions, but I find it interesting that so many have pushed it off as a “lifestyle that [I] cannot afford… therefore, a food stamp recipient for damn sure shouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Gerry Mak, mentioned in the above article, actually wrote a response:

While organic and local foods seem like luxury items to many, it’s important to understand that cheap food is the result of government subsidies while local farmers get little to no assistance. Cheap food is the real extravagance. My interest in food stems from my having to care for a diabetic father, and good food is the only form of health care I have access to. Even when I was working full time for a publishing company, I received no benefits, and paid an average of $2500 to Uncle Sam every tax season despite wages that were meager by any American standard. Ultimately, though, this debate isn’t about my personal story, it’s about the shifting class boundaries in this country. The comments both attacking and defending people like me reflect the insecurities and fears we all harbor in a nation where, in a time of corporate bailouts and “Too Big To Fail,” even upper middle class people struggle to put food on the table.

Many people leaving comments have assumed that I am white, which I am not, though I would question the relevance of this fact unless you assume that race should be a criteria by which we decide who receives public assistance. In any case, the word “hipster” as a pejorative seems to imply “white,” and that reflects the larger race and class conflicts in this country — the underlying sentiment behind many people’s hatred towards artists is that art is purely the domain of the wealthy and the privileged. I can tell you that many of the artists I know in Baltimore work as dish washers, baby sitters, house cleaners, movers and dog walkers. They temp, sling coffee and freelance. They teach inner-city kids and counsel rape victims to make ends meet. They come from all walks of life and from all parts of the country, they are black, white, Asian and Latino, and all of them struggle to varying degrees. What makes them less deserving of assistance when they need it than anyone else who qualifies, and why is it such a travesty that food stamp recipients have access to quality, healthy food?

I mean, we talk about educating people about how to value proper nutrition, and how to convince people to leave the junk alone. We also know that a lot of the poor only have access to junk. But what about those who don’t? Do we get mad at them because they refuse to settle for crap? Is it a case of “beggars can’t be choosers?” Or should we stop trying to apply a cliche to something as important as health and proper nourishment?

There’s also this, which is of particular interest to me:

But there seems to be a special strain of ire reserved for those like the self-described “30-something, unemployed, ex-fashionista, EBT armed, post-hipster, downtown mom” from New York who, in January, drew nearly 500 comments on the Web site Urbanbaby.com, many seething with fury at her for trying to maintain the trappings of a materialistic, cosmopolitan life while using an Electronic Benefit Transfer card — food stamps — to feed her family.

I’m not sure why it’s so interesting to me… but it is. There’s also one more comment that’s particularly interesting to me:

Let me get this straight. It’s wasteful and elitist to spend your food stamps on organic salmon and raw honey… but it’s OK to spend it on Pepsi, Little Debbie snack cakes, and Lay’s potato chips?

What are your thoughts on all of this? I know we looooove to talk food stamps, for some reason (I’m starting to feel like a stereotype, here) but I’m really curious about everyone’s thoughts. Let’s hear it!

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86 comments

Denise @How Mama Got Her Swag back December 10, 2010 - 1:28 PM

Wow, okay, here goes…

I’m a former food stamp recipient. Many years ago I received them as a struggling student and to this day and I have a love/hate relationship with food assistance programs. I love them because they allow you to eat on a tight (or non-existent) budget, of course. Where the hate comes in is where you see exactly what kinds of foods are pushed to food stamp/WIC recipients. I’m a “greenie” I guess you’d say and I have been on my state’s back about including organic options in WIC food lists. Most states will not include organic options as part their list of WIC-approved foods because they’re nutritionally identical to non-organic options. That may be true, but there are numerous health detriments to be found in the pesticides and additives used in some non-organic options. But apparently, that’s not enough reason to make them WIC-approved.

I have seen first hand that although it’s very possible to eat healthy on a food stamp diet, the government neither wants nor expects you too. If you are “poor” you ARE expected to “take what you can get,” so to speak, and leave the good stuff to the rest of us. Add to that the lack of appropriate nutritional education in underserved communities and you have a serious public health issue. The bottom line is we need a complete shift in our thinking as a culture. This is as much a social justice problem as it is a health problem.

"Mira Luma" December 10, 2010 - 1:30 PM

If I could qualify to receive food stamps right now, guess where I’d be spending them? Yep – at Trader Joe’s and at our local co-ops (Wedge, Seward, etc.) It’s highly biased and unfair to say where and on what somebody’s food stamp allowance should be spent just so they can feel better about it. There is already a huge stigma surrounding receiving food stamps; the sort of attitudes as displayed by various commenters just makes it worse. I think some people definitely see those receiving and using stamps as a cultural (read: poor black) thing and not as someone who uses them at stores such as I listed above when that’s obviously not the case at all.

Madame: The Journey December 10, 2010 - 1:54 PM

How did we go from the ‘it’s taxpayer money, they shouldn’t spend OUR money on junk food’ argument … to ‘it’s taxpayer money, they shouldn’t spend OUR money on food of higher quality (read: healthy rich people food)’? Make up your minds, noble tax-payers.

Generational-impoverishment, or newly poor … people requiring government assistance, can’t catch a break. I think that’s the theme here.

And considering environments and accessibility factors are so diverse amongst ‘food stamp’ recipients, I think it would be mighty challenging to set a universal standard for what should and should not be purchased, with supplementation.

Jeannine December 10, 2010 - 1:57 PM

I personally think no one has the right to tell them how and what to eat. Whether they collect Food Stamps or not should be irrelevant. If someone chooses to eat nothing but junk food on the government’s programs that is their choice no matter how we feel about it. On the other hand, if someone chooses to eat healthy then why do we care? We should applaud them for making decent choices while in a less than favorable position. I think it shows strength. They could easily give up on all their ideals and just accept what is offered them or what is easiest. Once the assistance is offered no one has the right to tell an individual what to do with it. If you qualify for public assistance then it is your right to have it and use it to your benefit. The so-called point of public assistance programs is to help those who are at or below the poverty level to sustain the basic neccessities of life and to better themselves so maybe they will no longer need the program. So I say applaud those who are on the program and using it to maintain or better themselves through healthy eating! I even have no problem with the woman and her dinner parties. Why not? She is keeping herself happy and entertained, this doesn’t mean she is lazy and not looking for work. In fact, she is feeding others at her parties and making her benefits reach farther! Times are tough enough for many people out here, no need to make people down on their luck feel worse. Besides, I’d love the Food Stamps if only they would give them to me!!!!! LOL

Alovelydai December 10, 2010 - 2:51 PM

Had this same debate with some classmates in a Poli Sci high school class over 15 yrs ago. Someone mentioned that she saw a lady buy seafood with her EBT card & couldn’t understand how “they” could be so irresponsible. The logic was instead of fresh seafood “they” should stock up on dry goods, cheaper protein, and can goods. Irks me to this day.

$150-200 doesn’t go far whether it’s provided by the government or earned income. Makes more sense to purchase the best your “money” can buy. Especially when “good food is the only form of health care [we] have access to”.

Lucy December 10, 2010 - 4:18 PM

This, to me, just shows it is about poor shaming regardless of what food stamps are being spent on.

And I also think it shows the importance of access. I live in an area where a food co-op, a major supermarket, and a farmer’s market that runs March through November are all within one 10-15 minute bus ride (I buy weekly passes so I am not using additional fare just for a grocery trip) or walking distance. As a result, I can eat very well for $60-$80 a month. A lot of that comes from the co-op selling bulk spices, so I can literally get $.25 worth of spices if I am especially pinched at the time.

That said, I too have at times internalized the shame of using food stamps on “luxury” items or when I was only buying things that might make it look like I didn’t know how to eat properly. It is messed up that people are shamed from all sides. I have felt shame, and known others who did as well, for buying soda or sorbet, bulk hummus, veggie burgers and “special” tofu (kind that comes flavored). If you are someone on food stamps, you’d best be living on brown rice, lentils and look ashamed of yourself for doing so.

Kamika December 11, 2010 - 12:53 PM

I call shenanigans on some of these judging people. We live in a society that incorrectly calls any dissenting opinion about race, religion, convicted people, and sex “judgmental” but never seem to grasp that these “little” but deeply ingrained opinions about class, are judgmental.

For years I made a lot of money and when that well dried up, I had to go and get food stamps. That little EBT card helped to save my life! The ability to go to the various grocery stores (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.) gave me the freedom to eat what I liked and what my body needed keeping at bay the depression about my situation, the imbalanced emotions from eating highly processed foods, and the ability to continue to be self-sufficient and improve some areas of my situation while I waited to get a job. I lost 30lbs on my Food Stamp diet.

One point I think the article inferred but didn’t specifically call out is that healthy eating helps to relieve some of the strain on our already taxed healthcare system. As Gerry Mak said, “food was the only form of healthcare she could afford.” The high rates of Diabetes, Cancer, and other obesity-induced illnesses can be directly correlated to poor diets. Not poor people’s diets.

Lastly, oh what a shift or should I say slide have we made in our society. Fast Food, eating out, and poor nutrient foods used to be for the rich. Fat on your body was a sign of wealth. Wow, I guess poor people are really wealthy and they just don’t know it. ;-(

Natasha December 11, 2010 - 3:03 PM

All people deserve to eat well, all of them. All people have the right to pursue the careers they are interested in, all people. It is terrifying for people to imagine that people with Master’s degrees need help feeding their family. Companies are paying less and less and expecting more and more. People should be able to feel good about their purchases, period. We all value different things and if a person wants to only wear thrift store clothing but only eat organically, then so be it. “Tax payers” kill me with their notions that they are providing food for every single person that is struggling. I qualified for WIC when I was in graduate school full time with a new baby (and husband) over 11 years ago. It was wonderful to go to the farmers market and give milk to our neighbors (we didn’t drink cow’s milk). We were a struggling community of people who didn’t want to have children in our 40s and wanted to continue in higher education. Many of us were first generation and our families that struggled to assist us through undergraduate school could no longer support us. This was a short time in our lives, and we have been able to give back times over for the help that we received at that time. Some people who receive assistance will not always need to, and others will.

You can’t just go up and get foodstamps. It is a process that is often humiliating to those who have not grown up ever understanding how thick your skin has to be to even go through the process of applying. Those same people who can have a $300 grocery bill paid without flinching should be grateful and keep it pushing, stop judging and be glad to support those who can’t.

GOAL Digger December 11, 2010 - 8:30 PM

This is lightweight hilarious. There are already entirely too many ppl who believe black ppl are the primary recipients of welfare :-/ this should only come as a shock to the aforementioned. SMH at the obvious double standard, though. There’s a Chris Rock quote that’s fitting here, but I won’t go there 🙂

Nesha December 13, 2010 - 2:11 PM

“its the tax payers money” … they pay taxes too…just like i do…and food stamps helped me a lot. i lost my job last year while i was pregnant and i actually was able to eat healthier during that time because of the allotment of food stamps and able to try out healthier recipies with all the fresher foods i purchased. with the cash i have now, i have to stretch everything so my eating has not been so healthy lately.

Erin of Fit Mama Training December 13, 2010 - 2:44 PM

*Food is a basic human right. I would not want to live in a place where the government did not help people who struggle to afford food. I’m grateful this is available to people who meet income guidelines for any reason.

*I don’t believe anyone has the right to make choices about my body but me. Where I shop, what my budget is/where it comes from and what I put in my body is my business. I expect that courtesy to be extended to me as a basic human right and I extend it to others.

*I think eating healthy does not have to be expensive. Having a stocked pantry, buying in bulk, clipping coupons; there are lots of ways to eat healthy that don’t involve stepping foot into a whole foods. There is nothing wrong with shopping someplace like this, but your buck won’t go as far. Your choice.

*Rich, poor and in between I think people buy processed boxed foods for convenience and habit and not economics. We don’t value health in this country. We value iphones not vegetables. We value thinness to the tune of a billion dollar diet “magic bean” industry but not healthy eating and cooking. It isn’t common place because it isn’t a priority.

*Eating healthy is not a moral issue. Soda and chips are not healthy. Your choice to consume or obstain from them does not make you a good or bad person.

*The notion that people using EBT cards are undeserving of making their own food choices feels really icky to me. Should they also wear a uniform so as to be easily identified and to insure cheaply priced clothing?

*I think people get up in arms about others choices only when they are insecure about their own. People of all income levels complain of healthy food being “too expensive.” I think that is the final “trump card” people use to remove their own responsibility for the state of their bodies. In this case I believe folks get their respective panties in a bunch when they hear about the ability of some to eat healthy whole foods on food stamps because that means they too, could be able to figure out how to do that.

*I have been a social worker for 9 years in one of the poorest counties in the nation. I have seen some of the least healthy AND most healthy food choices in very impoverished homes. The ways and reasons for their choices were diverse and individual- just the same as any other socioeconomic group.

*My body my business. Yours too. How bout that?

Lorrie September 22, 2011 - 2:25 PM

See my comment below…(waaaaay below)

cindylu December 13, 2010 - 6:59 PM

I’m not surprised that with such a headline, the Salon article would garner those types of comments. Everyone loves to hate hipsters.

That said, I don’t really care how they use their EBT cards. If I needed assistance, I’d probably spend it the same way I use my money now. I spend less than $200 on groceries for myself (sometimes split with my roommate). It’s kind of neat when you learn how to cook — even just a few basic dishes — and realize how well you can eat for pretty cheap.

Orange December 13, 2010 - 8:52 PM

I have a single-mom friend who’s a Polish immigrant, now a U.S. citizen. She takes her Link card (Illinois’s EBT card) to Whole Foods to buy organic meat and produce. She eats more like a European: She doesn’t buy junk food. She bakes her sweets, she cooks most of her meals. Can you blame her for wanting to put the freshest food with the fewest chemicals into her child’s body and her own? I can’t.

Besides, it’s not as if using food stamps to buy $50 of food at Whole Foods costs the government more than using it to buy $50 of Doritos.

Kelekona October 20, 2011 - 12:33 PM

That was my thought too. I don’t know the prices for doritos and salmon, nor the raw calorie, fat, and salt counts for $6 worth of each, but each person gets their budget and it doesn’t cost the program any difference if you buy fish or chips with it.

Food stamp programs make a few judgement calls, (is it just WIC that insists on generics instead of store brand?) but if it’s on the approved list, it’s allowed.

JoAnna December 13, 2010 - 10:47 PM

Hmmm… Loaded response here. I recently had to qualify for food stamps. I’m caretaking a retired slightly disabled relative (who just isn’t really making plans to leave, but that’s another story), and who is so bad with money that I can never depend on her to pay a set amount of rent that includes cable tv, food, all utilities, and full house access. I work 2 part-time jobs as I was laid off from my fulltime job. So the part-time jobs that used to be pocket money, are now bill money. Anyway, after the 3rd more month than money, I applied for and received foodstamps. It’s not a lot of money unless you budget well, but it’s nice to know that I can spend cash to keep the lights on and my prescriptions filled, and use EBT on quality food, not just what is left in my wallet after I put gas in the car, pay the mortgage, and utility companies.

I don’t shop at “Whole paycheck Foods” as I have to budget btw my diabetic diet, and her lactose intolerant one, and still allow for the ocaissional “treats”. That means a lot of fresh fruits and veggies. Also, my relative comes from the fried generation: fish should be cornmeal coated and fried. Chicken should be in wings and fried. Cheap steak should be pounded with a hammer, breaded, fried and drenched in gravy. Wild salmon in a can becomes salmon croquettes coated with crushed saltine crackers and deep fried. Hence her quadruple by-pass 2 years ago. OH! Don’t forget the thick cut bacon!! She wants Cheetoes, and Snicker bars, and Vernors pop, ’cause it’s healthier than Coke. Then chased by bottles of Milk of Magnesia instead of fiber.

I wish I could be one of those “hipsters” who could buy raw honey, locally artisanal produced soft cheeses, boudin sausage, and king crab legs with my EBT card. Those luxuries (except the raw honey… Gotta have that with my herbal tea!) are paid for with cash, or if they’re on sale AFTER the staples are bought. Luckily, there’s a EBT friendly fruit and vegetable market near my home that caters to immigrants where I can buy almost any fresh produce for CHEAP as long as it’s in season. At Thanksgiving, the store ran out of collard greens at 39 cents/pound. Green beans: 49 cents/lb. Sweet potatoes: 3/$1. Pea pods: 1.59/lb. Bean sprouts: 49 cents/lb. Bottles of extra virgin olive oil 32oz:$6 each. If you know your seasonal stuff, you can eat well between there and the farmer’s market.

This is a tough economy. I never used to shop at the the Fruit and vegetable store or the Farmer’s Mkt before because they were too “dirty”. Too crowded. Stuff wasn’t packaged prettily. You had to walk for blocks on end (at the Farmer’s mkt) and carry your own bags. So glad that I have learned thru this “recession” that food can be healthy and cheap. It may not be the all American meal, but it’s a lot better for me. I was lucky enough to travel to Beijing and Xi’an China in 2002 for 16 days. Beggars would run up to me pleading for money from the “prosperous” fat woman rather than my slim size 5 companion who paid for most of the trip. It was hard to explain to them that in America, wealthy people are thin, and poor people are fat.

Kitty December 13, 2010 - 11:29 PM

I was a VEGAN on foodstamps. I may not be a vegan anymore (anemia), but I used to be on foodstamps and now that I’m unemployed again, need to apply.

I shop both at discount stores for some items and healthy places to find veggies and fruit. I also collect unemployment to at least try to keep up with my bills and non-food housewares.

People with a superiority complex need to get out. Anyone at anygiven time can be on foodstamps. One minute you have a job and another you may be down on your luck. You are not living off of other people’s taxes, but your own that you have put into the system. All that cash that were taken out of paychecks is given back to you when you need it. The same thing when you get too old to work/sick anymore: Social Security, disability, Medicare, Medicaid, State Assited Health Insurance, Section 8, etc… That’s why every state has a DSS. To help their citizens stay alive and well while they get back on their feet.

People who work shouldn’t be the only ones to eat well. And they shouldn’t complain because they may get a humbling from the Lord and find themselves in the very situation the people they criticized are in.

I’m 27, trying to get my B.S. degree to get a better job and having that help from the gov’t (for food, for money, for helathinsurance, and for school)is a blessing! It gives me a chance I didn’t have. I’m glad these programs exist and I hope they keep helping the needy. I pray for the snooty people to humble themselves and get some empathy.

Kitty December 13, 2010 - 11:33 PM

* sorry for any typos….

Bebe December 14, 2010 - 3:24 AM

I currently get $500+ for myself and 2 kids…I lost weight as well, not because of eating cheaply, bur because i could afford the diet my kids deserve. While i do believe the amount I get is excessive, I make sure my kids donate to food banks some of the extra healthier food we eat.

Eva December 14, 2010 - 12:03 PM

“You are not living off of other people’s taxes, but your own that you have put into the system.”

This is what I tell people when they complain about “those people” shopping with EBT cards.

Keke December 14, 2010 - 2:37 PM

I just think it’s a case of “darned if you do, darned if you don’t.” Poor people have historically been held to a standard of morality and responsibility those at the top are not held to, or at least the richer classes aren’t criticized for it. When it comes to this discussion, I’m like “What do you guys want?!” First it’s, “junk food’s bad!” now it’s, “How dare THEY try to eat a nutritionally balanced meal?” I think this issue speaks to the nuanced complexities of classism. Ultimately, no matter what those who are struggling are doing to make their lives better, people in other situations will always deem those actions to be somehow corrupt and maybe on some level people’s ideas stem from an inherent distaste for those who need financial assistance.

I think this distaste stems from the basic ideas that we all learn early on: rugged individualism, meritocratic pride and the like. But the problem is we are facing the worst economic climate since the Depression, the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening, and yet many still cling to the belief that “if you don’t make it, it’s your own fault.” We all need a little help right now. I don’t think getting fresh fruits and veggies is going to lead to the decline of the American economy. You can thank big business for that one.

k not K December 15, 2010 - 6:33 AM

Ugh, the hatred for people trying to prepare proper meals all over the original article and comments is disgusting. We each have the right to choose how we spend our resources – even if some of those resources come from social programs for a time – and what we put into our bodies. I applaud anyone who’s dealing with the stresses of unemployment and living on limited resources, and yet still manages to choose healthy foods and have some fun cooking them!

Elaine December 15, 2010 - 4:23 PM

I didn’t know food stamps were available to AmeriCorps workers, otherwise I would have gotten them when I did my service.

I’m vegan; I sure wouldn’t be buying much in the way of government cheese and that’s why I never even looked into food stamps when I actually needed them. The people I knew who got them were very restricted in what they could buy. I had friends who ate restricted diets due to morals, allergies, or environmental reasons and they’d end up trading their food stamp purchased foods like dairy for things that weren’t allowed by food stamps at the time, things like soy milk or farmers market fresh fruits and veggies.

I’m glad there are now options for people who choose not to cause suffering to animals as well as options for people who have allergies or who eat atypical diets for religious or environmental reasons.

Kari December 17, 2010 - 1:46 AM

What struck me most was the mention of being able to eat healthy food as being a ‘luxury’ and why that is the way it is. Also it really disturbs me that so many people were upset about those on food stamps buying organic and what not, I personally would prefer that those on food stamps buy healthy and organic. I used to be on food stamps and that is what I used to buy. I am still on WIC and they used to let you buy organic but that has since been stopped with no explanation which is disappointing, but in the summer they do give out currency (paper strips with the value of $1, not actual money)to go shop at farmers markets. It seems like its a catch 22 thing, if you buy healthy you’re bad, if you buy junk food, you’re also bad. I think the people with these feelings would rather not fund food assistance altogether. I also think that this is all apart of the lessening stigma of food stamps that more and more are going on them.

Me December 19, 2010 - 10:15 PM

My comment is a little off the beaten path.

I agree with the comments above that applaud people who need assistance for caring enough for their health to not let difficult times lead them to make bad food choices. However, I believe that some of the criticism that comes about EBT recipients buying from Whole Foods, buying salmon, and exotic foods is less about the audacity to eat healthily and more a concern (maybe even a criticism) of how far they’re making their dollar stretch. I’ve received food stamps while working through school, and I know how hard it is to stretch a dollar. Without the assistance, some of these foods are considered a luxury because they’re high-priced on anyone’s budget. I don’t think critics are saying anyone should be buying outright junk food instead. I think their train of thought is something along the lines of:

1. There are a lot of healthy options available at local grocery stores that are priced more economically than what you’d find at Whole Foods or similar stores.
2. The EBT is meant to help recipients stretch a dollar.
3. Opting for exotic foods or higher priced, yet nutritionally-similar foods at specialty stores/markets does not maximize the assistance being given.
4. If a recipient isn’t optimizing the assistance they’re receiving, it raises the question of whether they’re optimizing their non-assistance finances (not that anyone has the right to dictate how someone budgets their finances).
5. With the question of whether a recipient is doing the most to stretch their dollars, it raises the concern of whether the EBT program is creating a system of dependency or overallocating money that can be reduced on a per recipient basis in order to address some of the applicants that get turned away–some of which are just as deserving of assistance, but may not make the federal budget cut.

This statement isn’t meant to imply that recipients are wasteful or that they need any less than they get. It’s just meant to illustrate the conclusion that can be drawn from the situation. Assuming that no one feels that they can only afford to subscribe strictly to high health-risk diets when they’re not receiving assistance, it’s fair to say that if recipients are spending money on foods that teeter more on the side of luxury and less on the side of health conscienciousness, they could be displaying behavior that suggests they may have a budgeting risk if the way they shop for food can be used as an indication of how they make purchase decisions for other basic needs.

Again, I’m not making these statements as an accusation of anyone’s reality while on the program. I’m not asserting what anyone should or shouldn’t be doing with their finances. I just wanted to illustrate where the criticism might come from when people discuss welfare and how its recipients use it. All in all, health should always be a top priority en tandem with fiscal responsibility. I hope I got my point across clearly.

Molly McCall March 12, 2011 - 9:54 PM

I see the logic in your post. The only thing I have to say is that if you get $200 in food stamps, you get $200 whether you buy chicken and rice or salmon and couscous. You can’t buy non-food items with that money. It’s not like you can buy X pounds of food, so choose the cheapest. I think one thing a lot of people don’t consider when thinking about healthy dieting is that even though the nuts, grains and vegetables may add to the cost, the missing meats and prepackaged food can make up for that, if planned out. If someone can feed themselves just as well, using only that $200, getting nicer things, where’s the waste?

Kate September 26, 2013 - 4:07 PM

I understand the point you are trying to make (in a kind way), but there is a good explanation to buying more expensive specialty items with food stamps.

I am a mother of two and a proficient home cook on food stamps. We are pesco-vegetarian. Most of our meals are based on veggies and beans. in order to make the food shine, I will use high quality items like good olive oil, hazelnut oil, cashews, imported cheese, exotic mushrooms, fresh herbs, and olives. Twice a year, I buy lobster tails on sale (which we eat in a pasta dish and I later make a soup using the shells)

I buy these items judiciously, but the small addition of a spectacular ingredient makes the basic foods we eat delicious. If I couldn’t get creative and make yummy food my kids love, we would end up using our food stamps on more processed items. Those star ingredients make staples shine.

We don’t buy meat, chips, pastries, ice-cream or anything else like that. That is how we stay within our budget. It is my expertise in the kitchen that lets me know where to splurge and save. Food value is more than just how many dollars you spend for how many calories. I buy my family good food. I turn scraps into stocks and we eat our leftovers. Those are factors in a budget you just can’t see in the grocery line.

Kian December 21, 2010 - 4:54 AM

If one spends all of their food stamp allotment on one dinner and they do not have extra money floating about (which is most likely the case, otherwise they would not have qualified for food stamps in the first place), they will go hungry for the rest of the month. You get a monthly allotment and if you spend it too quickly, you’re screwed. The people who choose to spend it unwisely will not magically be able to escape this fact.

It’s food. It’s the basis of living. You can’t live without it – this is why people receive food stamps – somehow this fact gets ignored. If there were a program giving out free ipods and tv’s, then yes, that would be a wasteful and extravagant way of spending taxpayer money, but it’s not.

I get $137 a month and receive $869 in disability payments. I go to the soup kitchen to get free (and usually rotting) veggies and fruits to supplement my diet. I must adhere to a gluten-free diet and low-sugar/carb diet because I am on the edge of getting diabetes and I have Celiac disease. I can’t buy processed food and if I do, my health bill goes up (causing Medicare to pay more), I feel worse and the prospect of me getting out of the situation becomes less likely. There are consequences for not providing help to those who truly need it and they will be shared by all.

There will always be people who take advantage of the system, but most people are just trying to do the best that they can. Period. I welcome any of those anti-food stamp commenters at the other sites to live my life for a week and tell me to my face that I’m living the high life. I wish.

Anyway, you guys rock. This is my first time here at your website and from what I can tell, y’all are very thoughtful and wicked smart. Cheers.

cptacek October 26, 2013 - 9:40 AM
J December 22, 2010 - 11:53 PM

I think it’s absolutely ridiculous and ignorant to belittle people who are receiving public assistance for using it to buy healthy food. How does that even make sense?! First of all, if they qualify for it, and aren’t abusing it, how is it anyone’s business what they buy as long as it’s food and not things such as alcohol and drugs? Secondly, unhealthy eating and obesity is already an enormous issue in our society-one which causes taxpayers way more than a person using their food stamps to buy organic food and probably will save us more in the long run when you factor in the effects of obesity-heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc. that we end up paying for.

Lauren March 10, 2011 - 6:42 PM

So I guess because Im poor im supposed to eat unhealthy? It sounds like they are contradiciting themselves. If you eat healthier, you feel better, which makes you more confident, which makes you want to get off of food stamps! There. lol. But my husband and I have three kids. He works full time and I work part time. We are on and off food stampers. We didn’t get any last year because he had a full time job. He was laid off. Now he is hopefully about to start working permanently at a job he has been temping at. I have no problem being off food stamps. Either way Im going to find a way to eat healthy on a budget. Whether its organic broccoli or regular broccoli its still better for you than hot dogs and kool aid.

Molly McCall March 12, 2011 - 9:59 PM

1. They made it clear that these people already LIVED in a place where these things are available. That makes a huge difference. If we plopped some quality food markets in the middle of a poor neighborhood, then they would probably start eating this way, too.

2. A lot of these food just sound luxurious. Oooh… Thai yellow curry! That sounds fancy! Yeah, it’s not. Curry? That’s just seasoning. You can curry common vegetables, like cauliflower and potatoes. Thai? Wow. Hey, what about bananas? Are they exotic? Most would say no, even though NO bananas grown in the US. They are ALL imported. See? Knowing how to prepare a wide variety of foods is not a bad thing.

Does my CSA make me a hipster? « Our Own Strings March 25, 2011 - 5:06 PM

[…] food stamps to buy things like “wild-caught fish, organic asparagus and triple-crème cheese”. This post does a really great job of examing both these […]

Marie June 11, 2011 - 12:42 AM

People buy what’s available to them. If you’re in an area that has stores like Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods close, then that’s more likely where you shop. I think people still like to cling on the ‘inner city’ stigma that has been attached to public assistance. They’ve failed to take into consideration that the unemployed and working class poor has broadened with the current recession, and people that are used to buying healthier food aren’t going to change just because the source of the money has. A lot of foods sound more luxurious than they actually are. It doesn’t cost more to feed a family of 4 a dinner of pork tenderloin, brown rice and whatever fresh veggie of choice than it does to fix fried chicken, mash potatoes and mac & cheese. Everyone deserves to eat healthy, and if they can make it happen off $200 a month and not be broke and starved half way thru, why be mad about it? I’d rather someone eat grilled tilapia and rice pilaf than selling their stamps at half price to get cash to by cigarettes and booze.

Leslie Turk June 11, 2011 - 5:31 PM

I am a single mother raising five children. The ultimate goal I have is to raise happy healthy children. When I was laid off the EBT became the substitute for the cash I was already speading to feed my children. I was already buying fresh produce once a week. I was already buying freash meats. I was already allowing a small percentage of organic foods into my pantry. So to say that I shouldn’t be using food stamps to buy healthy food for my children would be an insult to me. On the hand people have their opinions.
I will say that I am a regular at Whole foods and local farmers markets. I shop, vegan and gluten free. I applaud the stores that participate in the food stamp program. We should all promote healthy lifestyles.

Nia G June 11, 2011 - 8:04 PM

Yes, I’m blessed to be able to have EBT during this economy. I do not want to buy sugary drinks, salty chips, and deep fried edibles. I have never been on EBT ever in my life, so I’m learning everyday where it is accepted. I wish more places would state that they accept EBT. I just saw in Thorntons gas station (here in Louisville, KY) post signs that say “look for the EBT sign on the tags”. I want to get the veggies and fruits from a farmers market but do they take EBT? I know Krogers and Whole Foods do, but are those my only options? Heck, restaurants should take EBT in my opinion. The person is eating food and they can’t buy alcohol with it, so it is their choice how they spend the allotment. I just want more choices of where I can use EBT, since not all grocers (small places) take them just yet. They used to with the paper stamps lol!

Stefanie September 22, 2011 - 12:36 PM

This is what I have to say: It would be nice if I could get food stamps! I barely have $200 a month to contribute to groceries. That extra money would help so much in buying the best food. When my uncle was staying with me and not working at the time, he applied for food stamps and for 6 months, it was so much easier to take care of business. And without it, I do feel the sting. Because of the stigma, I did feel weird going into the grocery isle and using my card but believe me, after a while, I didn’t care. My money, my food. And I do work full time, pay taxes and all of that. Everyone is going to have an opinion, and it may be one that we don’t like. But as long as we are taking care of our bodies and God is pleased with us, keep on going!

Ronnie September 22, 2011 - 1:04 PM

The story to me highlights the divide between lower income communities and middle/upper class. The individuals in the story are able to use their food stamps to buy healthy and organic products at such stores as Trader Joes and Whole Foods. These stores are not usually present in lower income communities. I recently read an article that went into several grocery stores in a low income neighborhood and reported that in the fruit/vegetable aisles it was more likely to see “fruit” juice than actual fruit. I don’t disparge anyone the help if they need it. But I would love for the food choices of lower income families to be expanded.

Cherished September 22, 2011 - 2:15 PM

First…I wish you had a like button so that we could like the comments written above that have strong points.

My family income recently went down to one income and the other income $0. For months we struggled with weather to pay the lights or eat. Having food stamps(EBT card) has given us the option to buy meals for our family and live decently. I like that we have the options to shop at Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, etc along with our grocery stores and local corner stores. We would be starving mid-month and out of money if we shopped at Whole Foods so we do not.

I’m just as troubled by extravagant food shopping as I am by the fact of seeing someone buy hot cheetos bags for their children for dinner. In my community we advocated for use of the cards at farmers markets. Ultimately no matter what your previous ecomomic status or situation you should have the option to buy fresh unprocess and even organic foods if that is important to your family. We should always have the goal of using supplemental funding temporaily until our ecomomic situations become better. The food stamp program has helped America not be a country where children and people starve to death in large numbers.

Their needs to be more regulation of stores that qualify to sell in the future.

p.s. I felt guilty about buying brie cheese but I just had a taste for it and the kids and I ate it all.

pps. I recently found out that you can use EBT to purchase seeds to plant your own vegetable plants. Great work who ever got that approved.

Lorrie September 22, 2011 - 2:20 PM

Elitism on a Food Stamp budget is just as distasteful as the poor head-of-household replacing dinner with processed junk instead of real food. These are two extremes. Purchasing expensive organic foods and high end produce is a fiscal waste for reasons slightly different than purchasing donuts and chips. Yes people should have the freedom to purchase what they want however I am just as incensed about elitism as conservatives would be about people in the ghetto buying processed foods. But is that poor head-of-household really feeding their family everyday on chips and soda? Or is it a treat? And is this a gross exaggeration like the “welfare queen” to please angry conservatives in order to justify condemning those they feel don’t deserve anything? Do those poor people live near grocery stores even?? Why is the assumption that poor families don’t prepare healthy meals on a budget? That article seems to push the false conception that it is trendy and allowable for children of middle class families to purchase foods that maintain their lifestyles in neighborhoods with high end grocery stores because they are suffering students who are more healthy but condemn heavily the poor urban inner city person who lives without the luxury of any grocery store, job prospects and/or a place of their own as a single parent of a household of 4 to eat a bag of chips valued at $1. The real issue here is Food Stamps were meant to provide basic nutrition for families at a valued cost – maximizing the effectiveness of each dollar. So if the poor head-of-household treats themselves to a soda pop and a bag of chips for $3 it is a palate pleasure of value and low cost and is no comparison to the elitist shopper who purchases organic potatoes and gourmet cheeses for themselves and no one else just for the sake maintaining an expensive lifestyle. What “lifestyle” is the poor head-of-household really maintaining? The freedom to enjoy small palate pleasures – not expensive culinary masterpieces. This is definitely a point of contention for me because when food stamps were still actually stamps and even after they became cards grocery store cashiers went to great lengths to embarrass me, humiliate me, insult my intelligence and make me feel like I didn’t deserve to even be in their line when I had those darn stamps years ago. My parents were not on welfare, I came from a middle class family, I had grocery stores where I lived but I was not afford graciousness and purchasing expensive products healthy or not was not encouraged, in fact it was looked down upon. I hate to say it but at the heart of this issue is racism pure and ugly. Ask yourself if a black woman with three small boys walks in a grocery store purchases high end organic produce and special foods healthy or not would they be treated and viewed the same as the single white student? It was always assumed I was a welfare queen taking advantage of the system when I have always been a student and or working fighting to get away from the system, but the system is institutionally set up in such a way that discourages advancing (with exception to the Welfare to Work program). I find it interesting that now some states approve food stamps for single people, when I was coming up single parents got the food stamps or people recovering from homelessness or addiction got food stamps not single able bodied students. Are we grooming a new generation of young adults who don’t work and get food stamps from middle class homes? Where does that leave the farm worker or any poor person who is not a student? I work part time on a meager salary with four degrees and nothing to show for it (with three children) and still don’t qualify for Food Stamps but I have to choose to pay for gas to get to work or buy groceries. We make a lot of spaghetti and beans needless to say, so yes it disgusts me that a student is spending $200 on organic food in natural health food stores because the taxes I pay go towards it. It is unchecked privilege.

Jondrea Smith September 22, 2011 - 5:58 PM

This article, and the double-standards you point out are symptomatic of the entire quality of argument in this country. When it comes to aid in America, if you’re willing to bow, scrape, shuck, jive, and be the spectre for the rest of society to point to and say “there but for the grace of God go I,” then your poverty can be subsidized. However if you have the audacity to actually attempt to make the best of or take self-initiated steps to improve your situation, then prepare for a world of hurt. The attitudes talked about in the original article remind me of the recent Heritage Institute report that alluded to the belief that the poor weren’t ‘poor enough.’ This was based on the fact that poor families had such extravagant luxuries as microwaves, telephone service, and a tv. It’s insane that we’ve reached such a point as a society where even trying to eat is a catch 22.

Marshall September 26, 2011 - 12:21 PM

I am at work and skimming the comments and wanted to bring up a point I don’t see on here yet, so my apologies if it is…

I am a 22 yr old recent college grad with an AmeriCorps position that qualifies me for food stamps. I agree with many of the points made in the post about food stamps. However, I am still unsure if I want to apply for them myself- I have lived on my salary for nearly 2 months without food stamps- I am never hungry, I still go out to eat plenty, I even bought a new dress last week. I am fortunate that the only place I will want to travel this year (back home to see family) will be happily subsidized by my parents, who are financially able and willing to do so in order to see me.

So while I qualify for food stamps, do I “need” food stamps? If I were to get food stamps, what would change in my spending habits? I might start buying beer that isn’t PBR. I might be able to afford to visit friends on the weekends or buy nicer ingredient for cooking.

When I read the article I was surprised that this wasn’t addressed- what these “hipsters” are spending their money on (assuming that everything they make doesn’t already go to rent/utilities/etc). Could that be linked to some of the anger? (they could be buying cheaper ingredients and not have to even USE food stamps)- what standard of living should you be at/be raised to to “deserve” food stamps? This is something I think about a lot as I debate whether or not to apply so I would really be interested in hearing people’s responses.

Jondrea Smith September 26, 2011 - 4:24 PM

Re: Marshall;

I don’t think there’s a particular socioeconomic metric where you ‘deserve’ to have healthy food. Honestly I believe that nobody should have to to depend upon food stamps to ensure the nutritional value of the food they eat, however I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by judging what’s in a another person’s cart before we take a look at the problems we have with the food supply in general.

Mika November 22, 2011 - 10:30 AM

I don’t see anything from being able to shop where you want. As long as you’re buying food, who cares what store it comes from? Who cares if it’s fancy or not. The food stamps are serving a purpose…..food! I actually would prefer if food stamp recipients would shop at places like Whole Foods, their local farmers markets, and the likes. At least that imply that they’re “trying” to eat healthy. Americans get caught up on the wrong thing. We want people with food stamps to eat the scraps, the off brands, and the cheap unhealthy items. If someone receives food assistance, they’re deserving of the same nice items. Hopefully, the food assistance will be a temporary fix.

milaxx November 22, 2011 - 12:25 PM

Through a set of challenging circumstances I applied for medical assistance. The worker told me I also qualify for food stamps. The only downside is due to my income, I get a grand total of $20 a month. However, I see nothing wrong with using food stamps to shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or any market where one could purchase organic foods. Isn’t the whole point of the program to assist people in eating nutritionally? I only wish I qualified for more.

Billy December 6, 2011 - 2:18 PM

You’d be amazed the quality of food you can get and the money you can save by getting your food from local farmers.

Violets Mommy April 23, 2012 - 5:21 PM

See I don’t understand, forgive me If i make the same points, I get EBT, and its not because I am lazy or want to ride on the government roller coaster. I went on the EBT card after I had to leave my job to take care of my child. I kind of will complain I dont get a whole lot, $170, I noticed the 26 year old young single man in the article is getting $200 but thats cool. I don’t see what the argument is when it comes to food and nutrition for people, esp in this country of plenty, and why at this point its a question of the supposed tax payer , paying for us down on our luck folks. Sorry I am of the firm belief that sometimes everyone is owed one and this is my chance. When my situation levels itself out, then my EBT situation will have to be re evaluated. I am seeing lots of folks using EBT, we are all going thru some really hard time and every little bit counts. But to have people bitch about what people are buying with Food Stamps. Crazy downright crazy. I shop at Whole Foods simply because I want the best in food for my daughter and myself, and I get their brand of products, they cost a bit less. Since I am not working my health is about all I have and my daughters health is of the highest importance! This should be not discussion for anyone. Everyone should have access to healthly, quality food, isn’t there a big issue with obesity? We don’t have universal heath care. right? Having EBT is a good thing but you have to budget verrrry carefully, and I also have to add my unemployment money to buy food. What upsets me are the people that buy junk food with their benefits, which to me is missing the point . Here in NYC you can go to any store and farmers markets, I plan on doing just that in the summer time.

V July 9, 2012 - 11:56 AM

People should be allowed to shop at the stores that offer non processed foods. I think that it is good that people can eat healthy or keep up any type of life style on government assistance. Cooking at home and buying quality ingredients lead to less preventable diseases. A luxury is being able to buy fast food everyday. When people are allowed to go on a expensive vacation that should be a luxury. Buying quality food should be a normal way of life.

Sprinkles September 16, 2012 - 9:54 PM

Every chain grocery has non-processed food. It’s not like the choice is between Whole Foods and a toxic dumpster.

Roxie July 10, 2012 - 1:26 PM

I would think people would applaud those who are on assistance for eating healthier and trying to keep healthier lifestyles. I mean how many times do we hear complaints about people on assistance eating crappy junk foods and that its a “waste of money”. I would prefer that those on assistance eat healthier and be educated on how to budget and eat healthier on food stamps.
I am not saying they should dictate what those on food stamps should eat but some people need to be educated. I also feel that by encouraging people who are on food stamps to eat healthier and giving them more options may also in fact as some mentioned act as “health care ” so to speak.

Liz July 16, 2012 - 1:02 PM

Thank you for this! I’ve recently been granted food stamps and to anyone who thinks they are easy to come by, they are not! The process is long, humiliating, and requires patience and humility. Very humbling and very enlightening. I live in San Francisco, I’m working three different independent contractor jobs (cause no one wants to actually hire anyone as an actual employee) to make ends meet…and at first it seems like a decent amount of money, but I have to exercise extreme restraint and discipline by putting away 20% of everything for taxes later…it comes out to less than minimum wage. When my mental health began to deteriorate (couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t concentrate on work), I knew I needed help…which I couldn’t afford. The food stamps have freed up some extra money so I can afford mental healthcare (which I managed to talk down to the lowest fee possible), and this alone is a relief that makes me feel better and more productive. I’ll be using my food stamps for the first time today at Trader Joe’s…I’m a little embarrassed, but happy to have to no longer choose between food and something else. And this article makes me feel better about wanting to purchase healthy foods with my food stamps…some very good, insightful points here about classism and racism. Thanks again.

cptacek October 26, 2013 - 9:48 AM

What do you think the reason is that no one wants to hire an actual employee and instead hire contractors?

bee July 18, 2012 - 4:32 AM

I am a recent graduate at a top university. I obtained my Masters degree, and still don’t have a job. I’ve applied everywhere! I just received my food benefit card, and more than ever, feel so thankful that I am an American. Once I get back on track, I’m going to serve my country in some way! Oh, by the way, I am asian ethnically, American nationally, female, and no one thinks I’m struggling financially. Here’s to stereotypes!

V. July 23, 2012 - 8:28 PM

my only issue is that if you need food stamps, then make them work to your benefit. You got them for a reason, not to impress your friends by buying stuff you don’t need in Whole Foods. You can buy healthy food anywhere. Budget correctly and change your lifestyle. When your situation returns to normal and you again have a job and can budget everything in, then constant splurges are great. I have met girls who quit jobs and purposely had more babies to stay on food stamps and I have met. That is not why we are fighting for equal rights. I realize that you want it all, but you are going to have to work for it and work hard. You want to stay at home fine, you go and find some rich man or get a night job. This, is not the way. There are really poor people in this country and misusing food stamps is a slap in the face to them. And don’t kid yourself, people talk about every single hipster, mis user and waster of food stamps in ever single grocery store in this country. So if you think you are looking beautiful with your diamond rings and ipads and chanel bags and buying sandwiches and perrier with an ebt card…do not for one second kid your self.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 24, 2012 - 4:43 PM

What makes you think “shopping at whole foods” equates to “buying what you don’t need?”

Matter of fact, what makes you think that items in WF aren’t, in fact, cheaper than they are at another grocery store?

Interesting assumptions y’all are making, here.

Sprinkles September 16, 2012 - 9:56 PM

Maybe because we comparison shop, and yes, a basket of food from Whole Foods IS more expensive.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 17, 2012 - 12:25 PM

Wrong, wrong, wrong. ROFL

Dr. Shred September 6, 2012 - 1:02 AM

While I am getting EBT at the moment I find that me and my wife and learned to make the most of it. Some people have said that people on EBT should only be able to buy rice and beans to feed themselves.

These people aren’t like me. If I buy a steak, it’s not a rib eye, but something like a london broil or flat iron that I know how to cook and it will feed us for 5 days. We shop at CostCo and get chicken tenders that will last us a month. We can get a $4 roast and have pot roast we can eat for days. Rice, beans, pasta we always have as well as potatoes and other vegetables.

Because I’m the only person who earns money in my family because my wife has to look after our autistic daughter she and I have a bit of free time to actually cook our food and not buy it pre-made. If you don’t have work, then you have time to cook so you cook and if you were raised right you cook enough so you can freeze some for later days.

We can easily make several gallons of Minestrone soup that will last us several months. Our only splurge in the Christmas prime rib which costs us about $30, but lasts us 5 days. How many of you could feed dinner to 3 people for 5 days on $30?

Sprinkles September 16, 2012 - 9:51 PM

People here are hilarious. Why is there a perception that the only choices are orange processed cheese and grass-fed local organic beef? There’s a huge middle ground of just plain regular food. It is fully possible to buy quality fruit and vegetables at places that are NOT Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. The fresh fruit and vegetables at your run of the mill supermarket are just as good, and cheaper. But GOD FORBID you might have to run into people who actually have to struggle to make their budgets cover the basics! Watch out, hipsters, you might catch the uncool poverty!

Organic does NOT mean better for you. It’s a luxury. Whine all you want, but welcome to the real world. Regular apples and potatoes are just as healthy as organic ones. Get a grip and get a life. You are not going to die if you get your bananas from FoodsCo.

I reckon people are just defensive because this is the first time they’ve been confronted with the fact that the expensive tastes they’ve taken for granted all their lives are, in fact, not human rights. “Social justice” does not mean you’re entitled to luxuries. And they ARE luxuries. Those of us who grew up healthy on a budget, eating fresh foods without Whole Foods because we understand what is a need and what is a want, are laughing at your entitlement complexes.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 17, 2012 - 12:25 PM

“Why is there a perception that the only choices are orange processed cheese and grass-fed local organic beef? There’s a huge middle ground of just plain regular food.”

…so why are we pretending that Whole Foods doesn’t sell anything in that “huge middle ground?” All of your comments just sound far more like you have a problem with the fact that you believe you can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods than anything else. I really wish you’d see a therapist about it, instead of vomiting it all up in my comments section.

God. So many strawmen, so little time.

Melissa September 9, 2014 - 4:41 PM

Regular food is organic food! The food you get at a so called regular store sells food sprayed with poison is genetically modified ! Food in its healthy natural state is organic food! And people who are on food stamps have the right to eat clean REAL food. Those of us who are the working poor need to eat as healthy as possible. Because surprise surprise we can’t afford health care either.

Shells January 4, 2013 - 3:15 PM

You know, considering that in a five year span alone I paid over $110, 000 in taxes (and that is solely tax from my salary) I don’t feel guilty about receiving EBT for the few months that I did. I more than paid for it. I have two children and can literally feed the three of us on $300 for the month. Luckily, we received more. So, I used the little left over for treats which consisted of fruits, loads of frozen veggies (stocked in the freezer), nuts, dry spices (have a curry addiction) and meats. The great thing is that my spending habits changed in terms of food. If my kids want cookies, they know Mom’s not buying them, she’s making them.

But those are MY choices. Why should I force my food choices or where I purchase food onto other people? They only have a limited amount anyway, right? If they choose to squander their resources, they have to live with that consequence. Besides, squandering can be done just as much in the local supermarket just as much as in TJ or WF. Don’t remember seeing Doritos (yuck!) in TJ.

I also want to point out that years ago we spent more of our income on food and less on health care. Now we spend more on health care and less on food. Perhaps, buying food that is healthy is a smarter way to cure our health issues? I don’t allow my children to drink soda or to eat most other junk. Perhaps, some of these people saying that organic is a luxury and that it is just like other food should watch documentaries like “Food Inc” that talk about where our food comes from and how food has changed from what people used to consume. We should be worried that sugar and corn by-products are in so many of the things that are making us unhealthy. No one can be responsible for your health but you.

So, how can I berate anyone for taking better care of themselves and family, especially if we’re not stuck paying for their insulin or medication for hypertension for the next 50 years?

By the way, a study just came out that boys are now also experiencing early puberty (like girls) and doctors are pointing the finger at all the hormones in our food. When consumers as a whole, whether on their dime or the government’s, choose differently, then perhaps things will change that benefit us all.

Monique January 7, 2013 - 5:14 AM

OK… I receive food stamps and, YES, I certainly do use them at TJ’s and Sprouts to buy, healthful, organic (when possible) fruit, veggies, dairy-free and gluten-free food for myself and my toddler. It would be a complete and utter waste of the benefit to use on crappy food that will eventually kill me and my baby. I am grateful and FORTUNATE to even LIVE NEAR these stores to be able to buy the things I do. The true INJUSTICE is that the vast majority of those living below poverty level also live in neighborhoods where you may not even find a Vons/Food 4 Less/Kroger!

The crux of the issue in this debate is not what those who receive SNAP should be allowed to purchase, but does the rest of America even think we are worthy to LIVE, instead of simply SURVIVE!

I have chosen to raise my daughter pescatarian. This is not because I am uppity or think I am better than my income would have many think of me, but because I am a Black woman from the hood who has lost family to heart disease and lived overweight most of my life and I am DETERMINED to break that cycle despite my income level.

It is disheartening that there are those who feel I am not worthy of eating to live or teaching my daughter to do so just because I must do it, for now, using government benefits. And trust me, I get the looks when I check out at Sprouts or WF (never at Trader Joe’s), as if I am trespassing and encroaching on a “luxury” that should only be afforded to those whose employment or trustfunds make up the whole of their income.

fanya January 7, 2013 - 5:11 PM

While I don’t want to tell people what to eat, I don’t feel that the debate that went on last year in NewYork made any sense regarding soda was worth the time. People who who were on EBT who didn’t want to cook also thought it was their right to get prepared foods. You’re on a budget–act accordingly. You most likely would have to add some cash to your food budget–use the soda for that. What you could save if you decided to cook a chicken or two as opposed to buying one already cooked is astronomical. Everyone wants to be accommodated but at what cost? Then poor choices are back-up by choruses of we need funds to be raised so we can afford to eat.

Check the January/February Issue of “VegNews,” the article profiles the SNAP program–are they really allowing for nutrition when designing the program?

More power to people who make lemonade from lemons.

Kent Politsch March 3, 2013 - 9:39 AM

I am 65, male, and white. I might be an anomaly at your blog.
I don’t and never have used food stamps or an EBT card, although there was a time many years ago when I needed it.
I found your blog because I’m looking for anecdotal experiences with SNAP. I’m writing a sequel novel in which a bad guy takes advantage of the program. I wanted to find some stories about the way SNAP is abused. I wanted my bad guy to be really bad. And he will be.
I also work for the Department of Agriculture, but not the particular agency that administers SNAP, the Food & Nutrition Service. Whew, what a task. The agency I work for helps the farmers and ranchers who produce the food. Today, that’s a tough assignment, too.
SNAP, as you may know, costs taxpayers about $80 billion a year or almost 80 percent of the USDA annual budget. If you learn how diverse USDA is in its responsibilities that will mean more to you. (Programs to ensure the security of farmers and ranchers so they can continue to grow our food, fiber, and now bio-energy fuels get about 15 percent of the budget.)
The challenge in feeding those who use SNAP and have an economic need is that the number of people is growing. It has risen from 26 million recipients in 2007 to 46 million in 2012, a 77 percent increase in five years. But the USDA budget in 2013 is about the same as it was in 2009. That means all the other programs have to be slashed to meet the nutrition demands for the 46 million. The sad irony is that the budget pressures are putting more people on the unemployment line or causing them to retire before they wanted to so they will all likely lean more heavily on government programs, in some cases, including SNAP.
I am really fascinated by your followers’ debate over what the SNAP EBT card should be used for. Even the arguments that drifted toward the obesity issue, and subsequently, racial stereotyping, and what role SNAP has played, were engaging. The different viewpoints were represented well. In fact, you have articulate followers, Erika. You should be proud.
So, here are my 2 cents. Disregard my USDA connection, albeit it does give me an educated perspective, but I’m more interested in the emotional and logical arguments than the government view.
There is a trivialized cliché that says, “I eat to live, not live to eat.” We don’t follow that axiom well in most of the world where food is plentiful. In sections of Africa, Asia, South and Central America they don’t even understand its meaning. No one lives to eat. They don’t use food for comfort. They use it for survival. The natural resources of this continent make it hard for us to imagine food scarcity to the extent that starvation is possible. Hunger, yes. Starvation? Not really.
I believe Americans subscribed to the “eat-to-live” cliché maybe 75 years ago. I have evidence, too, in historic pictures that I used when writing a non-fiction book. I spent days at historical societies researching photo files from the 1920s-1950s. What struck me was how lean everyone looked. Even the rotund people were what we call today “overweight.” They weren’t obese. Nothing close.
What was the difference? There were lots of things that contributed – more physical labor, kids ran outdoors summer and winter without parental fear. Everyone was more active. Communities took care of each other; knew each other. Americans and many other nationalities used food differently. And what the wealthy ate rarely mattered. It wasn’t plastered on TV to make the rest of us envious. True, there were historic periods when feasting and fasting were both cultural and religious traditions. Still are. But today, food is mostly a feel-good item. More of us eat for pleasure not for nourishment. Look at us. You’ll agree. Some of us even eat to make social statements or status declarations. For instance, would I eat sushi to nourish my body and maintain my health if someone hadn’t introduced it to me as a social phenomenon? Probably not. I like it. But if I hadn’t tried it because somebody encouraged me to, I wouldn’t even think about it. In cultures where sushi is a fundamental food, of course I’d eat it.
Most of us know what our bodies need to function well. Some of us need to be reminded that nourishment affects our ability to think as well as move our muscles. I know that Congress and policy makers at USDA want people to have a balanced diet of specific nutrients because science has demonstrated that the human body functions best when it intakes the things it needs. It rejects the things that adversely influence the human nervous system, intestinal tracts, heart and organ, and the strength of the skeletal structure.
Here’s the real consequence: If diet is not heeded, medical expenses often assumed by the U.S. taxpayer grow exponentially. That puts policy makers on red alert. Many believe that they must set rules in order to prevent the nation from going bankrupt because of a spending crisis. Sound familiar?
Congress started out with the good intentions when developing laws to offer food stamps. It wanted to make sure every citizen had enough to eat. As expenses rose because the population grew and more people needed help, Congress sought cheaper ways to feed the unemployed and underemployed, the elderly, ailing, and physically handicapped. Some recommended that those with needs make fewer demands; be satisfied with limited choices. Liberties became influenced by economic, age, and physical status. At the same time, manufacturers sought more ways to mass-produce food with the least expensive supplies — sugars and starches. The food made affordable was therefore the least nourishing but highest in calories. Here we are today with a dilemma that refuses to go away.
So my conclusion is that buying cheap food is not an answer. (Have you ever measured the amount of water in a cheap can of beans? It’s not cheaper it’s just less expensive to buy in that can because there’s less food.) Skipping meals in not an answer. Buying fancy food because a friend suggests it is not an answer.
Buying food that science knows will nourish the body is an answer. Consuming smaller meals more often is an answer. Eating to live and not living to eat is an answer.
USDA has a chart that shows what the body needs. Scientists with years of study know how to feed a family on limited income. The menu rarely includes potato chips. Or lobster.
USDA supports America’s farmers and ranchers so year after year every consumer is assured of quality food and affordability. I would hate to see this nation resort to socialism as a means of saving us from ourselves. We don’t need lawmakers telling us what to buy, cook, and eat. We’re an intelligent people. All we have to do is choose right, rid the SNAP program of abuse, and respect the work of rural America.
The need is unquestionable. The will to run the nutrition program right has never wavered. The resources are there. All we have to do as citizens is accept responsibility for our actions.
Be smart. Buy smart. Eat smart. Live smart. It can be that easy.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 4, 2013 - 9:36 AM

“The different viewpoints were represented well. In fact, you have articulate followers, Erika. You should be proud.”

I want you to know, Kent, that I appreciate your comment and contribution to the conversation, but this sentence, quoted above, needs push back.

Compliment us on our candor, our ability to have difficult conversations and handle them with class, or our ability to share without stepping over each other… but this is not high school, and our “articulation” was never up for assessment. We’re adults. Why wouldn’t we be articulate?

I’m certain that, when faced with the shocker of “people handling difficult discussions with class” in other spaces on the web, you don’t compliment the commenters on their “articulation;” it’s simply not necessary here. There should be no reason to expect anything other than well-spoken individuals, and publicly registering your shock just feels like a backhanded compliment.

Kay August 12, 2013 - 2:56 PM

Kent is right. This part right here:

“Consuming smaller meals more often is an answer. Eating to live and not living to eat is an answer.
USDA has a chart that shows what the body needs. Scientists with years of study know how to feed a family on limited income. The menu rarely includes potato chips. Or lobster.
USDA supports America’s farmers and ranchers so year after year every consumer is assured of quality food and affordability.”

just needs to be repeated. I’m a single mom and I know how hard this is, I’m working my a** off and I found this old comment string while googling for something else. I’d like to quit my job and go on welfare so I can just stay home and take care of these kids. I just bought my weekly groceries at WalMart and I’m trying to switch to clean eating, and my grocery bill DOUBLED for the week. Almond butter?? flaxseed? frozen fruit and protein for 4 people for a week??? (fresh is cheaper but I can’t go to the store more than once every 1-2 weeks)
All this about how good food being a civil right — I have the right to grow my own food, from seeds, and that’s about it. I don’t feel *entitled* to demand that the government or my local farmer give me what he’s grown, unless I’ve got something to trade for it. I think it’s all about attitudes.

Excerpted from Elitism On A Food Stamp Budget? | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Erika Nicole Kendall August 12, 2013 - 3:33 PM

Yawn.

“I’d like to quit my job and go on welfare”

…but this would be an abject abuse of the program, making you a career welfare recipient. How is this relevant to what we’re talking about, which is WHAT PEOPLE WHO OBVIOUSLY QUALIFY FOR SNAP… CHOOSE TO BUY WITH SNAP?

Why do y’all come to a Black-centered blog and talk this stupidity about being career welfare recipients? Is that what I’m advocating, or do your brains somehow manage to conflate EVERYTHING EVERY BLACK PERSON HAS EVER SAID ABOUT SNAP with the racist media imagery that perpetuates the myth of the “welfare queen?” “Entitlement.” God, gag me with a dog whistle.

Seriously. Think critically. I’m tired of being beaten over the head with unrelated platitudes, all because some brilliant person who “randomly found this post through google” thinks we’re advocating for abuse of government programs. Come on, brain.

And, no, Kent wasn’t right – Kent was RIDICULOUS. “Scientists with years of study know how to feed a family on a limited income?” LMAO What does a scientist know about a limited income? What the hell kind of scientist STUDIES how to feed a family on a limited imcome, at that? Do those scientists study what kinds of purchases people can and do make on various kinds of income in various kinds of communities? What about various regions of the US? Did you ever think about the cost of something like lobster in a place like Maine, as opposed to a place like, say…Kansas? I’d LOVE to know what kinds of scientists we’re talking about here. Until then, I’m calling foul on both him AND you.

“Almond butter?? flaxseed? frozen fruit and protein for 4 people for a week???”

I’m sorry, but my eyes just won’t stop rolling. If I can shop at Whole Foods, with all organic food, at UNDER the average food stamp rate for a whole week… I can’t be bothered to feel pity for the woman who unnecessarily buys flax seed and frozen fruit. Maybe you should use less time commenting on my blog and find alternative ways to make money, so that you’re not trolling black blogs dropping keywords like “entitlement” and “quit my job and go on welfare” while simultaneously lamenting the cost of two of the most expensive items in the store. Maybe, if you spent less time talking about perceived *entitlement* of people unrelated to you, you’d have more time to go to the grocery store and get that cheap fresh produce.

“All this about how good food being a civil right — I have the right to grow my own food, from seeds, and that’s about it.”

No. This is noise. In a country that can promote broad, general concepts like “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as civil rights, somehow “the ability to sustain oneself” is “entitlement.” If the USDA, a government entity, is going to deign to involve itself in the mass production of produce and “commodity crops,” then the LEAST it could do, as an arm of the government who is tasked with using MY tax dollars to better my country, is make sure that it’s contributing to EVERYONE healthily. And YES, that includes helping to ensure that produce is readily available in as many spaces as possible.

When people live in urban environments, where people are stacked one on top of the other… “fire escape tomato plants” aren’t going to feed your family. When you’ve got an actual job, you don’t have time to tend to a living room full of plants every day. And, when you’ve got a job that doesn’t pay you enough to live, and you receive SNAP, you buy what you have access to, what time allows you, and what your purchasing power affords you. There are LIMITS, and laughable platitudes about entitlement and “attitudes” aren’t contributory to any solution. They only contribute to giving me headaches. And I’m tired of the headaches, y’all. Seriously.

Kay August 12, 2013 - 4:27 PM

wow okay, there are some major assumptions happening that I could find offensive but I guess I’ll respond one more time and leave it. #1 I’m white but my kids aren’t, I didn’t realize that this was a “black blog” – meaning only black people participate? or that I must think that welfare is a black issue? Because that is totally wrong. I wasn’t being snarky at all – I am drop dead serious that I wish I could quit and take care of my kids.
#2. but I don’t because I agree with you, that would be an abuse of the system, but #3 your entire post seemed to be a response to the outrage over a woman throwing a dinner party with salmon. So the issue seems to be (from where I am sitting) one of people not willing to lower their standard of living to make their own bills. I am not speaking of people who are literally poverty stricken and have no way of purchasing what they need.
#4. I have a lot of single mom friends and we are all in the same boat, and we are all trying to work full time, and feed our kids “healthy” food, as best we can, and it is super irritating to read stories about people who apparently aren’t choosing between food and housing, getting EBT. I feel that some of my friends should qualify since they can’t pay their rent and childcare and basic necessities, and yet? What is the point here? that someone made a choice to get a grad degree in art, and now needs EBT to buy salmon — and we’re all supposed to feel like that is a civil rights issue?
You’re correct that people trapped in urban environments can’t grow enough tomatoes on their firescapes to survive. That wasn’t really my point – but I sense that any point I make is going to be swallowed and shat out and labeled because I’m not *quite* in line with the party. Entitlement’s got absolutely zero to do with color, maybe we should “un-hook” some of these words from their apparent “code”. And I liked Kent’s comment because it lines up with my own experiences with reality in other countries – Americans truly don’t know what it’s like to face starvation. Kent isn’t an idiot. and I meant no offense by what I said in my first comment.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 12, 2013 - 8:18 PM

“there are some major assumptions happening that I could find offensive”

Funny, how that happens.

“I didn’t realize that this was a “black blog” – meaning only black people participate?”

You didn’t realize that a blog with “black” in the URL as well as in the title…is a black blog? Or that, in a comments section with tons of avatars of black women, that the comments are full of black people? And that played no role in talking about being a career welfare recipient or “entitlements?”

Let’s operate on good faith here. Okay.

“So the issue seems to be (from where I am sitting) one of people not willing to lower their standard of living to make their own bills. I am not speaking of people who are literally poverty stricken and have no way of purchasing what they need.”

Do you understand how little a person has to make in order to qualify for food stamps? If a person can survive on so little, to the point where they can even stand to save up money, or compile resources with others and have a little party… we should be outraged about that? Because, heaven forbid poor people manage to find any semblance of joy with what they have?

“What is the point here? that someone made a choice to get a grad degree in art, and now needs EBT to buy salmon — and we’re all supposed to feel like that is a civil rights issue?”

What is your point? That the poor single moms should be protected first, and not the liberal arts degree? Maybe your complaint really needs to be that the qualifications for poverty in the US need to be modified to account for individual cities’ costs of living. Maybe your complaint really needs to be that valuable resources – necessities – are too expensive because of the commodification of certain crops over others, and the USDA needs to take a second look at its investments. MAYBE the complaint REALLY needs to be that instead of making SNAP benefits for *some*, there should be a focus on making healthy food available and affordable – commensurate to local cost of living – for ALL. But the “why can THAT person get salmon, and I can’t?” simply reeks of “how dare that poor person enjoy something *I* can’t even have.”

“Americans truly don’t know what it’s like to face starvation.”

You seriously have no idea. Maybe people like YOU and the people YOU know don’t struggle with starvation and poverty, but rest assured there are some third world areas in first world America, and saying otherwise is really and truly uninformed.

And, I’m sorry, but I’m struggling with “Entitlement’s got absolutely zero to do with color.” Entitlement, in definition, may have nothing to do with color, but that’s not how that term is used… especially nowadays. It’s funny that I only hear the term “entitlement” when it’s in relation to something being attributed to blacks in America. We bailed out billion-dollar corporations, and in all the writing I’d read, not once did a single major media outlet refer to corporate “entitlement.” But poor people, many of whom are of color, are singled out for support? Nah. I would challenge you to let that go completely – it’s a dog whistle and, if you’re genuinely trying to engage and not incite, it’s never going to go well if you use that term.

I have no idea what race your children are, but simply raising children of another race doesn’t mean that you’re qualified to discuss race issues beyond your own individual experiences. Major, complex issues cannot simply be solved using low-inference data, and that’s the bottom line.

cptacek October 26, 2013 - 11:00 AM

When I hear “entitlement” I think of Social Security and Medicare, not food stamps. *shrug*

Misha April 12, 2013 - 12:45 AM

Seriously?!! I am a “SNAP” recipient….and I say it loud and proud. I use it to buy my family wholesome food. I shop at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Specialty grocery stores in high-end neighborhoods and where ever else I feel like shopping! Yes, we unapologetically eat blackened salmon, raw honey, shrimp fajitas with fresh veggies etc on the regular. I haven’t always received assistance. I once was a full-time workaholic in corporate America. I’m now a student and actually NEED assistance. Why do people think that because you have a EBT card your limited to mac-n-cheese and honey buns? I’m not going to be a urban statistic with diabetes and hypertension because society thinks that is all I deserve. I believe people are actually envious of EBT cards these days. Lol. Like it’s the new black card or something?!?! It’s just food. Don’t judge me.

Kathy May 21, 2013 - 1:17 PM

There are so many angles to a story like this but as a single woman who feels blessed to be employed, I can empathize with anyone who is jobless by circumstances (not by choice) and who is forced to survive on food stamps. I can remember a time when I could have easily been a food stamp recipient and a subject in this article because I try to live healthy and would have tried my best to maintain healthy eating had my life gone that route.
Critics are quick to pounce on people when they haven’t walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. I don’t believe there is this overwhelming sense of pride in being on food stamps, if there is any “glee” it is in making the best possible choices under trying circumstances.
What I do believe is these same critics are quick to call you fat, lazy and trifling if you eat cheaply, poorly and unhealthy therefor bringing on significant health challenges and then ending up costing the system money to address your obesity, hypertension and issues that come from unhealthy eating.
Attacking people instead of encouraging more healthy behaviors solves nothing.

Desmond June 21, 2013 - 12:29 AM

Interesting article. I actually came across this because I was Googling some topics about food stamps and places that accept them. Guess food stamps + whole foods brought this to my attention.

Anyways, I am a 23 year old college student who has recently got on food stamps. I work part time and have rent and a few bills but nothing major. I can’t lie and say I was in dire need but it makes life a bit easier. I wanted to eat healthier and stop eating out to save money. Little did I realize that groceries are not exactly cheap, and healthy groceries are not cheap. It is the processed low quality stuff that is a bargain sometimes.

At first I felt guilty. Sort of like I was getting over. I felt like this because I am not or don’t appear to be struggling that bad. My family is upper middle class but they do not support me like that anymore and I have a younger sibling about to start college. But paying for school, and only being able to work part time is tough. It is a first world problem but I needed some assistance because I was barely getting by. Plus I had to start paying for my health insurance with some assistance from my parents. That was the reason why my parents encouraged me to apply because the money saved by not buying food will go towards my health plan.

I qualified for close to 200 a month. At first I was scared to use them and would only go to places at night when it was not busy. I definitely did not tell too many people except for my family and closest friends.

I remember getting into random discussions about welfare and I suddenly became a lot more passionate about the topic since it was now personal. Like many of you have said, people really hold poor folks and those using assistance to some crazy standards.

They get mad if you use it to buy junk food like sodas or cakes and snacks. But then people get mad when you use it to buy high quality food like seafood and organic stuff. I thought to myself, “SO WHICH IS IT?”

CritcalStudyinMama July 24, 2013 - 1:11 PM

I am a single mom and have had EBT on and off, but I am not here to get into the details of my personal experience. I was googling whether Trader Joes accepts EBT and was lad to this page. Why was I googling about Trader Joes? Because it CHEAPER than pretty much every overly store in the city!!! A LOT CHEAPER! I don’t understand how commenters are assuming that Trar Joes does, I’m fact, have ‘luxury prices’, even if those commenters are defending the right to healthy foods. Trader Joes frozen organic vegetables are CHEAPER than the my local store brand vegetables! I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood known for being ‘low income’; TJ is not close but I make the hour long subway trek to stock up on CHEAP FOOD! I highly recommend checking the store outgo all of you. And yes, even WHOLE FOODS can have CHEAPER produce than local supermarkets, especially local produce (best apple prices in NYC during fall).

Tiffany August 5, 2013 - 5:09 PM

That’s awesome. There’s a TJ’s near me but it’s on the other side of the town, and it’s expensive. There’s a local organic market near me(about 2 miles away) and the prices are pretty good. I spent $20 in there the last time I went in and walked out with some nuts, seeds and other stuff.

Christa July 29, 2013 - 2:33 PM

We moan and complain about OUR DOLLARS being spent on Americans who need food to live but.
1. No one is coming in YOUR kitchen to get food
2.We don’t have hissy fits about OUR GOVERNMENT spending OUR DOLLARS on NEEDLESS WARS AND MILITARY OCCUPATIONS.
3. $250 Million to feed hungry Americans or $155+ BILLION to kill people a. we don’t know and b. pose no threat to US

Ebony August 15, 2013 - 9:47 AM

I like the way you think! Thanks for posting that!

Tiffany August 5, 2013 - 5:03 PM

It’s funny that I found this article because a few years ago I was showing a fellow classmate around my neighborhood for a paper she was doing on the gentrification of DC. At the time(2009), the area was just starting to be “fixed”. I put that in quotes because the developers built condos, expensive stores and the like and families who had lived here for generations could no longer afford the rent or the property taxes were too high. Thankfully, my family is still here. Anyway, there’s a bus route that goes directly from our university(I won’t say where it is, but it’s near the Georgetown area and if you know anything about DC, you know that Georgetown is very affluent), to my neighborhood. We have to pass a few other areas on the way, some which are up and coming areas and others that have already made their mark on the map. At the time, there were a few foreclosed homes on my street, the organic market had been around for a little under a year and there was still a liquor store and check cashing place on many of the corners. Most of the “convenience stores” were filled with soda pop, expired milk, and bags of chips. No fruit/veggies, fruit flavored lollipops or maybe one can of v8 could often be found. Most if not all of these stores accepted food stamps, about 2 miles up from my house was the organic store. The cheapest thing we found there was firewood, it was $5 a log and they didn’t take EBT(food stamps). At the time, oranges were about $2/pound. My classmate asked me if I’d ever been there, I told her that I hadn’t, not because I didn’t eat healthy but because I can get fruit and veggies and other foods cheaper in a place that isn’t a food dessert. I explained to her that if there is only one grocery store that doesn’t sell unhealthy food in an area, they can charge whatever they want because there is no competition. I also explained to her that, at the time, there were many families who were using food stamps. They could come out of pocket for food from the organic store, but it would be expensive. I’m not necessarily upset that people who are on food stamps are able to eat healthy. I think that, at times, people can go over board. My family was on food stamps for a time after the recession. At the time, only certain foods could be used for food stamps, I don’t think fresh produce was on there. I don’t think my tax dollars should go towards someone eating lobster and filet mignon, but I do think it should go towards healthy foods. Fruits and veggies are expensive. When it comes down to it, Nobody WANTS to be a food stamps. It’s not something that you dream of a little girl, I didn’t at least. But if you are on food stamps, why shouldn’t you eat healthy?

Erika Nicole Kendall August 6, 2013 - 1:21 PM

…you do know that it’s *their* tax dollars, too, right? There are more people in this country on food stamps than there are unemployed… which means that people who are or have been, at one point in their lives, employed contribute to the pool from which SNAP funds flow, right?

People really need to get it out of their heads that the average food stamp recipient is some slack-jawed “welfare queen” that has never had a job and keeps popping out babies because that government check is “so fat.” Y’all, ROFFLE. Stop. Seriously.

cptacek October 26, 2013 - 11:17 AM

Here is where I think the outrage is with the article. These are 2 healthy, able bodied people who are college educated. Then later in the article is a guy who volunteers for a living and someone studying poetry? While I know that the recession is pretty bad, there are jobs out there. Maybe not within a few miles of your house. Maybe not in your college major (especially if you are studying poetry). Maybe you will have to move to a new state. Maybe you won’t be able to blog and get by (though if you are a good blogger, you can make bank doing it 🙂 )

It is harder with people with kids to pick up and move. Single, college-educated people don’t quite have those same restrictions.

I don’t think the outrage is so much “gasp! they are eating fruits and vegetables on food stamps!” as it is “get a job! any job!”

Please note…I don’t think people really understand how bad this job market is. They compare this job market to previous ones and assume some people are just being picky with the jobs that are available. This might not reflect reality.

SNAPqueen March 4, 2014 - 9:24 PM

I just want to make a small point about it being very hard to move — even for the single college-educated — esp. to another state/region when you do not have enough funds for relocation. A recent move took a huge bite out of my savings…and I started out with savings unlike when I was young, low-skilled and vastly more impoverished.

* I was thankfully approved for SNAP over the phone today. The social worker asked why I waited so long (I’m down to my last $90). To my consternation, I wept. So why did I wait so long? Because I couldn’t quite believe that a person with my years of work experience, a long trail of happy employers and marketable skills such as myself would have such a hard time getting work, any work. Apparently, I don’t qualify for cleaning or basic counting jobs. I thought if I’d just hold on, scrimp, eat less, ride my bike, sell plasma as often as I’m allowed. Alas, to be able to sell plasma and go to job interviews and ride my bike in winter, I need to eat!

Elle August 31, 2014 - 3:38 AM

i really appreciated this article and found it while i was googling. i just got on EBT and i have crippling social anxiety, so so far i’ve only used it at places with self checkout lanes. but i want to be able to use it at trader joes- i live in LA and there are some things at trader joes that are just as cheap, if not cheaper, than the things i might buy at vons. meat is cheaper at vons or ralphs, but veggies and snacks (gasp, a poor person who eats SNACKS???? i know, i’m horrible and entitled) are cheaper and fresher and healthier at TJs.

i have ADHD and sometimes i’m either so engrossed in something or so distracted by everything that i cant cook. the other day i put a pot on to boil for ramen and didnt remember until it had almost burned through the pot. standing in a kitchen for an hour trying to figure out vegetables is an exercise in torture. so i’ve turned into a snacker. i’ll eat veggies, i’ll eat rice crackers, but i rarely have full meals.

for me, TJs is the place to go to get healthy things i like to eat that won’t ruin my health (i have PCOS, lactose intolerance, and lost my gallbladder last year, i’m overweight thanks to the PCOS, plus i need two root canals and cant afford them so that limits what i can eat).

eating is torture for me and using my EBT is torture for me because im terrified of judgment.

the last thing i need is some privileged asshole telling me how to spend money that is quite literally lifesaving, since i can’t find a job and have been desperately applying everywhere i can. even mcdonalds hasnt contacted me back.

i guess in short i wanted to say that i really appreciate this article, and maybe its given me the kick i need to go to the stores i like and buy the things i want and can now afford to eat.

and screw the haters!

Erika Nicole Kendall August 31, 2014 - 10:18 AM

*hugs* It gets better, friend. Don’t let a fear of judgment cause you to starve yourself or prevent you from making the healthiest choices you can.

Laura May 14, 2017 - 6:15 AM

I got one for the first time. I lost my job 6 months ago and have been applying daily and have gone on many interviews. It is killing me financially. I decided, what the hell, I am tired of being at the middle class point which is making too much money too get any help and making too little to invest big amounts for tax purposes. You can be a homeowner and still qualify. I didn’t think I would but I did and it is wonderful. Even if it is just for a month or two it is a big help and frankly I am stocking up because it really is more than I would normally spend a month on food. The fact is, I have only told my brother. No one else will know especially my kids. So you go ahead and take it to the store, You swipe it just like any other card. Use it for what it is meant to be used for…..to help you through a tough time. Look at all the non workers (by choice) who have been sapping the system dry. You really need it as a temporary thing. That is why I finally said, “what the hell.”.

Laura May 14, 2017 - 6:02 AM

In the past people would talk about how food stamp recipients buy chips, soda, and basically all crappy food. Now, when recipients are eating healthy everyone throws a fit. Unreal. Has anyone thought that possibly that EBT card is allowing the person to stop shopping at .99 cent store where the off brand processed foods are triple the sodium etc…? Now they can use that card and eat healthier. Is it more expensive to shop at Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods? Yes it is. But shopping at those places would not be so popular if everything wasn’t GMO’d or full of steroids and antibiotics.

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